Telemann: Passion Cantatas

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COMPOSERS: Telemann
LABELS: CPO
WORKS: Passion Cantatas: Was gibst du denn, o meine Seele; Jesus liegt in letzten Zügen; Ich will den Kreuzweg gerne gehen; Ach Herr! Lehr uns Bedenken wohl; Der am Ölberg zagende Jesus
PERFORMER: Klaus Mertens (bass-baritone), Accademia Daniel/Shalev Ad-El
CATALOGUE NO: CPO 777 299-2

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The 18th-century music historian Dr Burney reckoned that Telemann had two styles, the one dry and inelegant, the other pleasing, graceful and refined. Happily, the five sacred cantatas included on this disc – never previously recorded – fall comfortably into Burney’s second category.

Each is scored for baritone voice with strings and occasional woodwind. Klaus Mertens already has sung several cantatas and assorted vocal works by Telemann on the CPO label, proving himself a sensitive and warmly expressive interpreter.

The present programme of works for Passiontide finds Mertens on eloquent form, responding to Telemann’s often vivid word-painting with appropriately measured declamation. Nowhere, perhaps, is he heard to better advantage than in the beautifully sustained accompagnato which opens the cantata Der am Ölberg zagende Jesus (Jesus in Agony on the Mount of Olives).

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This is also Telemann at his most beguiling and the Telemann, furthermore, that would surely have impressed both Bach and Handel. I should want the disc for this number alone though I hasten to add that almost all the music is of a comparably high order. Accademia Daniel under Shalev Ad-El provide Mertens with admirable support throughout. Nicholas Anderson